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4/12/2010
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Microsoft KIN Phones Strictly For Kids

New mobile devices feature networking tools that will appeal to the younger set but likely will leave more mature users (i.e. those over 19) looking for more.

Microsoft KIN Phone
(click image for larger view)
Microsoft KIN Phone
Microsoft's introduction Monday of its KIN mobile devices was less about a new line of cell phones than it was the debut of a social network users of a certain age can carry around in their pockets.

Both devices in the family—KIN One and KIN Two—emphasize touch-based social networking above all else, including other features, like built-in cameras, slide out QWERTY keyboards, and, yes, voice calling, that are standard on both models.

"We saw an opportunity to design a mobile experience just for the social generation—a phone that makes it easy to share your life moment to moment," said Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft's Entertainment and Devices unit.

KIN phones, manufactured by Sharp, will debut in the U.S. in May on Verizon Wireless, and in Europe in the fall over Vodafone's network. Microsoft did not reveal pricing plans.

Based on videos the company created to promote KIN, Microsoft defines "the social generation" as anyone born between, oh, 1994 and 1998 (and thirty-something celebs who still act like they were born between said years.)

Not that a phone built exclusively for teens and tweens is a bad thing, but make no mistake—KIN's primary emphasis on socializing means it's unlikely to appeal even to younger professionals, who will likely wait until Microsoft rolls out Windows Phone 7 devices later this year if they want a work-savvy mobile experience based on Windows technology.

But in the meantime their kid brothers and sisters will have a great time with KIN phones, which bear two main features designed to make social networking easier—even after a few too many post-prom refreshments.

The phones' main interface, the KIN Loop, offers real-time feeds and status updates from Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft's own Wonder Wall, and other Web 2.0 sites.

To share an item with friends, users just drag it into a small circle called the KIN Spot. Graphically, the item then disappears down the circle like Alice through the rabbit hole and poof!--it's shared.

"The social generation wants more and needs more from their phone," said Bach. "KIN is the one place to get the stuff you care about to the people you care about most," he added.

KIN One is the lite version. It's got a smaller keyboard, a 5 megapixel camera, and 4 GB of storage. KIN Two's keyboard is meant for two-handed texting, and it includes an 8 megapixel camera and 8 GB of storage. Both feature a built-in media player powered by Microsoft's Zune software.

And that's like, totally awesome.

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